Fabulous families child carrying cucumbers

Helping Your Child Grow Food for Packed Lunches

Children love gardening, so there’s no better way to harness this love than to help them to grow food for their packed lunches. They are far more likely to eat what’s in their lunchbox if they’ve had a hand in nurturing it, so growing fruit and vegetables together will be a real winner.

Do I need a garden?

You don’t need acres of space to grow food for a healthy packed lunch. Even if you only have a windowsill, you can still grow your own food. Sprouting seeds, such as mung beans, can be ‘grown’ in a glass jar. Or add a fun touch by growing traditional mustard and cress in decorated egg shells or little containers. You can grow delicious items in pots or Grow-bags on a small balcony, but if you are lucky enough to have a garden or allotment, you have an even greater choice.

Do I need special pots?

You don’t need to spend huge amounts of money to grow gorgeous food. Instead of buying expensive flower pots, re-cycle containers such as old plastic milk cartons, disused plastic containers or even tin cans. Just punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage and you are good to go. You can grow almost anything in a container, although you will need to use plant food and make sure you water frequently as containers can dry out quickly, especially in hot weather.

How can I get seeds on a budget?

It’s surprising how easy it is to get seeds that you can grow. It may seem obvious, but start with the food you eat. Save seeds from tomatoes, sweet peppers, chillies etc. and sprinkle them lightly into compost – a cut-down cereal box can serve as a seed tray.

Avoid special ‘Children’s seeds’ in the garden centre. These are generally expensive and no different from so-called ordinary seeds. Why not try to get together with friends and split packets of seeds (do you really need 200 tomato plants?), or agree to swap when you’ve grown the seedlings. Advertise in swapping sites such as Freecycle to exchange your surplus seeds / seedlings with others or try an allotment society.

What can I grow?

Naturally, what you can grow will depend on your individual circumstances, but there’s a vast range of different vegetables and fruits you can grow quite easily. Start by focusing on what your children would enjoy eating, such as cherry tomatoes, mini-cucumbers or crunchy sweet peppers. Try some mixed salad leaves, grow a rainbow with red and yellow Swiss Chard, or have a go at stripy or golden beetroot. If you have more space, plant some French beans – great when blanched and chopped into a salad.

Traditional fruit trees, such as apples, pears and cherries, can often take up a lot of space, but it’s possible to find miniature versions designed for patios. Blueberries can be expensive, but you can grow your own in a large pot, and enjoy mouth-watering strawberries and raspberries if you have more space.

Helping your children to grow their own food will not only give your packed lunches a boost, but also help them to be more in touch with where their food comes from. And hopefully you will be sowing the seeds of a love of gardening as well!

Image courtesy of woodleywonderworks from Flickr Creative Commons

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